Get to the back of the queue!

I am nearing the end of my journey “home” to Tallinn, and am standing in the very long queue at the boarding gate in Helsinki-Vantaa airport, aching for dinner, a shower, and bed.

There is a Shuffle Filterer beside me. This is what I call those people who seem to have a serious problem with joining a queue at the end of the line like everyone else. They’re not brazen queue-jumpers like the people who pretend they see someone they know and just cut in in front of you; instead, they stand at the side of the queue trying to look all innocent and nonchalant, all the while shuffling forward inch by inch until the easiest thing for you to do is just accept that they’re going to end up in front of you.

In principle, this bothers me somewhat. In the event, however, I really don’t care enough to get annoyed. What difference does it make to me whether someone goes through the boarding gate 10 seconds before me? Especially when our seats are all allocated anyway. And anyway, in this specific case, I am too tired and weary of airports to do more than just notice the Shuffle Filterer in passing.

But there’s always one person, usually a middle-aged man in a suit, who absolutely cannot bear to watch someone jumping the queue, even when it’s not directly in front of him or even going to affect him significantly in any way. These men feel obligated to speak up and show the Shuffle Filterer the error of his ways. They will indicate the queue, and gesture at the end of it, and tell him he’d damn well better get back there, tail between legs, or blood will be shed.

As it happens, this particular Shuffle Filterer is trying to cut in directly in front of me, and the indignant middle-aged man is directly behind me. I hear him muttering to himself for a moment as I watch the Shuffle Filterer shuffling and filtering in front of me, and then there’s the inevitable sound of a throat being cleared loudly.

Excuse me! Excuse me! This is a queue! says the Defender of the People, waving his Finnish passport at the slightly scruffy-looking Shuffle Filterer, who steps cautiously away from me. He shrugs with a lazy grin. OK, OK, he says in a bored voice, You go past!

He makes a slightly dismissive waving motion to indicate that once the troublemaker has gone past, he will then jump into the queue, his reasoning being that the man won’t get annoyed if the shuffle filtering doesn’t change his own place in the line. Unfortunately, his reasoning is incorrect.

You must go to the end of the queue! insists the increasingly indignant Finn. Arms are now flailing. Much excited gesturing is being done. I am groaning inwardly and considering queuejumping myself, just to get away from what is going to turn into a hissing and spitting match, if my experience is anything to go by.

Look! the older man is saying, There is the gate! This is where people start to queue! They make a line all the way around to there – look! He indicates the back of the queue again. The Shuffle Filterer is completely unmoved by his passion, which infuriates the noble Finn even further. People join the end of the queue! This is how it works! This is normal!

He is shouting rather excitedly now. The Shuffle Filterer looks at him with typical Estonian impassivity. Yes, he says slowly and carefully as if speaking to a small child, but I am not normal.

I flinch slightly, waiting for a fist fight to break out. Instead, the Finn goes through a very weird series of abruptly changing emotions. He looks furious… then flustered… irritated… then resigned… and then he starts to laugh. He laughs and laughs and laughs, extending his hand to the Shuffle Filterer. Good answer! he congratulates him, shaking hands with him warmly. Very good answer! I like it. You may go in front of me.

The Shuffle Filterer grins and glides gracefully into his place.

I start to laugh. I can’t help it. I love it when someone is decent enough to see the humour in a situation, even when they’ve been in the right, and angry, and trying to make a point. I love brief little moments of amusement that break up the monotony of airports. And I love those outspoken Finns and silent Estonians.

It’s good to be back up north!


5 thoughts on “Get to the back of the queue!

  1. God I hate queue jumpers but I also hate queues. Recently when our flight opened EVERYONE rose to their feet and formed a queue . . Clare and I sat watching planes landing until the last call, walked through, had our boarding passes scanned and took our seats. . .I just don’t get why people have to push forward. Not in my nature I guess. Hope you had that hot shower and a good night’s sleep!

  2. Brilliant post.

    But…. It’s not the seat as much as it’s the space in the miniscule overhead bin that matters these days, when you’re planning your boarding strategy.

    If I don’t have a carry-on bag to worry about, I’m happy to lollygag about at the end of the queue. If I DO have a bag, though, watch out. My kitten heels can poke a man’s eye out. What I hate the most is when all you have is a briefcase, and there STILL isn’t any room in the overhead to stow your stuff. That’s just plain wrong.

  3. This made ma laugh. A truly brilliant answer.
    Ryanair flights are the worst. No allocated seating, so if you want to get a good seat you HAVE to push to the front.

  4. I fear I’m like the suited Finn – as soon as you let one person queue jump, everyone will do it! And then all hell will break loose! ;-)

    I agree with bevchen, it is way worse on Ryanair and Easyjet, with no allocated seats. At least Easyjet try and make it a little easier with boarding groups!

    Great post!

  5. Baino – just right! Airports are stressful enough without throwing in the extra hassle of pushing through a queue.
    Expateek – True. I had overlooked that issue! Fortunately this time I only had a small bag. I have horrible memories of standing in a crowded Ryanair plane last summer trying desperately to take enough items out of my bag and cram them into my pockets so that I could squeeze the bag into the compartment. People were tutting. It was terrible.
    bevchen and pogoism – I don’t share this line of thought. For a start, it seems to me that “good seat on a Ryanair plane” is a bit of an oxymoron. ;) I don’t really care where I sit, as budget flying is crap no matter where you end up!

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